WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) – The issue of gun control was again a hot topic on the Sunday morning news programs, more than a week after one of the worst mass school shootings in U.S. history.
The head of the National Rifle Association spoke just days after the powerful lobby group called for armed guards at every school in America.
The remarks were criticized by many lawmakers, who said more guns was not the solution to school shootings. On Saturday, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn called LaPierre’s comments ‘stupid’ and asinine.’
But speaking on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre didn’t back down from his call for more guns.
“If it’s crazy to call for putting police and armed security in our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy,” LaPierre told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “I think the American people think it’s crazy not to do it. It’s the one thing that would keep people safe.”
In response to the NRA’s call for armed guards, retiring Conn. independent Sen. Joe Lieberman urged Congress to act on meaningful gun control legislation.
“The strength of the NRA is that more than half of the adults in America have guns, own guns and have them in their homes. We have to convince them that none of the proposals will take their guns away. The proposals will make it harder, hopefully impossible, for people to buy assault weapons,” Lieberman told CNN’s “State of the Union.”
LaPierre argued that any new efforts by Congress to regulate guns or ammunition would not prevent mass shootings.
Lieberman rejected that argument and blasted the NRA for not even considering a ban on certain types of weapons.
“It’s obviously also true that the easy availability of guns, including military-style assault weapons, is a contributing factor. And you can’t keep that off the table. I had hoped they’d come to the table and say ‘everything’s on the table,’” Lieberman said on CNN.
New York Sen. Charles Schumer also criticized the gun lobbying group, arguing that LaPierre appears to blame everything but guns for recent mass shootings.
“Trying to prevent shootings in schools without talking about guns is like trying to prevent lung cancer without talking about cigarettes,” Schumer said.
Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” Newark Mayor Cory Booker said Second Amendment supporters do not need to worry about losing their access to legal guns.
“All the shootings in my city, only one I can find was done with a law-abiding citizen that’s mentally stable that bought a gun. I’m not afraid of law-abiding citizens buying guns; but the guns you want. The problem is in America right now is that a terrorist person who is on the no-fly list could go into the secondary market today and buy weapons,” Booker said. “We need to shut down these secondary markets. And when you poll NRA members, you poll NRA members, 74 percent agree that nobody in America should be able to buy a gun without doing a background check.”
Booker, the mayor of a high-crime city, said illegal guns and guns that wind up in the wrong hands are a major concern.
“The people dying in Chicago, the people dying in Newark are not being done with law-abiding gun owners. We do not need to go after the guns that a law-abiding, mentally stable American – that is not America’s problem,” Booker said.
The NRA plans to develop an emergency response program that would include using volunteers from the group’s 4.3 million members to help guard children, and has named former Rep. Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark., as national director of the school program.
Hutchinson said the NRA’s position was a “very reasonable approach” that he compared to the federal air marshal program that places armed guards on flights.
“Are our children less important to protect than our air transportation? I don’t think so,” said Hutchinson, who served as an undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security when it was formed.
Hutchinson said schools should not be required to use armed security. LaPierre also argued that local law enforcement should have final say on how the security is put into place, such as where officers would be stationed.
“I’ve made it clear that it should not be a mandatory law, that every school has this. There should be local choice, but absolutely, I believe that protecting our children with an armed guard who is trained is an important part of the equation,” Hutchinson told ABC’s “This Week.”
LaPierre cited Israel as a model for the type of school security system the NRA envisions.
“Israel had a whole lot of school shootings until they did one thing: They said ‘we’re going to stop it,’ and they put armed security in every school and they have not had a problem since then,” he said.
Democratic lawmakers in Congress have become more adamant about the need for stricter gun laws since the shooting. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California is promising to push for a renewal of legislation that banned certain weapons and limited the number of bullets a gun magazine could hold to 10. NRA officials made clear the legislation is a non-starter for them.
“It hasn’t worked,” LaPierre said. “Dianne Feinstein had her ban and Columbine occurred.”
There also has been little indication from Republican leaders that they’ll go along with any efforts to curb what kind of guns can be purchased or how much ammunition gun magazines can hold. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., noted that he had an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle in his home. He said America would not be made safer by preventing him from buying another one. As to gun magazine limits, he said he can quickly reload by putting in a new magazine.
“The best way to interrupt a shooter is to keep them out of the school, and if they get into the school, have somebody who can interrupt them through armed force,” Graham said.
Schumer said that he believes gun owners have even been taken aback by LaPierre’s refusal to include additional gun regulation as part of an overall response to the Newtown massacre.
“He’s turning people off. That’s not where America is at and he’s actually helping us,” Schumer said on NBC, where he appeared with Graham.
LaPierre also addressed other factors that he said contribute to gun violence in America, but he would not concede that the types of weapons being used are part of the problem.
He was particularly critical of states, which he said are not placing the names of people into a national database designed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill. He said some states are not entering names into the system and 23 others are only putting in a small number of records.
“So when they go through the national instant-check system, and they go to try to screen out one of those lunatics, the records are not even in the system,” LaPierre said.
Lieberman said he found the NRA’s statements in recent days disheartening because they deal with every possible cause of gun violence, except guns. He said the NRA’s position means that any new regulations that the administration wants to put into place early next year “is not going to happen easily.”
“It’s going to be a battle, but the president, I think, and vice president, are really ready to lead the fight,” Lieberman said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
LaPierre also lambasted staunch gun control advocate Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a continuing exchange of criticisms after the Connecticut school shootings.
LaPierre suggested Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that gun permit practices favor the well-connected over “the average guy” in New York City.
LaPierre says “the mayor’s buddies” can get permits, but others who need protection can’t. He didn’t name anyone specifically.
A Bloomberg spokesman says New York’s stringent gun laws have greatly helped reduce crime. He says LaPierre’s remarks “show his stark disconnect from reality.”
Bloomberg has long advocated for tougher national gun laws, and he and NRA leaders have had plenty of harsh words for each other over the years. The spotlight on both has intensified since last week’s massacre.
On Wednesday, Obama tapped Vice President Joe Biden to lead an informal task force on gun violence and set a January deadline for the recommendations.
Officials said Newtown school gunman Adam Lanza used a Bushmaster .223 semi-automatic rifle to kill 20 first graders and six school officials before using a semi-automatic handgun to kill himself as police closed in.
Do you support any gun control measures, or do you agree with the NRA’s call for armed guards in every school? Sound off in the comments section below…
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